right winter tires

Choosing the Right Winter Tires for Your Car

Driving in winter can be dangerous if you are not equipped with the right tires. A lot of people still wonder if they need winter tires at all. The truth is that winter tires, also called snow tires, improve traction on slippery roads, ice, snow, and frozen rain.

What Are Winter Tires, and How Do They Work?

Winter tires are specially designed for use in colder temperatures. These tires offer enhanced traction and are the best option if you drive a lot in harsh winter conditions. Using winter tires also benefits your all-season tires by extending their life.

Compared to all-season tires, winter tires have a broader, deeper tread. This specially designed tread helps them grab and eject snow, bringing the tires closer to the road for improved traction.

Some winter tires may feature aggressive tread patterns with smaller, sipping grooves. The tires may also have irregular edges that grip the snow.

Winter tires are also designed to be flexible even in sub-zero temperatures. Their softness retains the ability to grip the road. However, their improved traction also means they perform poorly in warmer conditions. Swapping out your winter tires when the weather is warmer is critical.

Related: How To Prepare Your Car For Winter

How To Choose the Right Winter Tires

So, how do you choose the right winter tires for your car? Let us find out:

Get the Right Size

Generally, the wider your winter tires, the more improved their traction. However, wider tires in the snow tend to float, while narrow tires cut through the snow to the road underneath it. Narrower tires improve your traction in winter.

Choose the right size of winter tires for your car. You can find this information in your vehicle owner’s manual, online, or a local tire dealership.

Know Your Roads

When choosing winter tires, consider the type of roads you use. Invest in high-quality winter tires if you drive a lot on side streets or highways.

Compact cars with a higher chance of skidding must also have high-quality winter tires.

If you use your car for short drives around the city, look for winter tires with a fair price-to-quality ratio.

right winter tires

Look at the Traction Index

The traction index is the scale of how much grip winter tires have on slippery roads. The traction index ranges from AA, best, to C, fourth best traction.

Approved winter tires also have a tri-peak mountain snowflake symbol on the side.

Some winter tires may also be marked M+S for mud and snow. However, these are different from designated winter tires and may not be helpful in severe winters.

Related: Car Cover For Snow – Are They Worth It?

Check the Quality

Take time to go to the shop and look at the tires. Visually compare the quality, size, and price of available winter tires.

Examine the grooves, lateral stiffness, and flexibility. Remember, larger grooves give you better traction on slippery surfaces.

Carefully check the quality of the tires. Some Chinese brands are cheaper; however, they need better handling and wear out faster.

Compare Snow and Ice Tires

Ice tires are generally considered superior, with better traction on snow and ice, while snow tires may offer poor traction.

However, that is not always the case. When shopping for winter tires, choose ice tires if you drive on dry surfaces or highways.

If you drive on downtown roads, snow tires will provide better traction while navigating through snowbanks.

Learn About Braking and Handling

Your winter tires determine your handling and braking. When temperatures drop below zero, all-season tires lose traction, which is one of the major reasons winter tires are mandatory.

With quality winter tires, you can maintain flexibility when driving and brake more effectively. Choosing the right winter tires also gives you better handling for improved safety.

winter tires

Do Not Mix and Match Your Winter Tires

When buying your winter tires, choose one brand for all four. Mixing different brands can affect your handling and driving, leading to premature and tire wear.

Avoid mixing winter tires and purchase the same brand to reduce the stress on your car’s differential.

Ensure You Ask the Right Questions

A sales rep might ask about mileage, driving habits, budget, and residence to help you determine the right winter tires.

However, it is also critical that you ask the right questions. For instance, ask about the different tread patterns and how they will affect control.

You can also ask about reinforced tires, noise levels, and the advantages of choosing a particular brand over another.

Have a Budget in Mind

Your budget is an essential factor when buying winter tires. Visit several shops to see average prices and make a budget.

You can also search online to find better rates. Most importantly, stay within your budget when you finally purchase winter tires. Buying them early in the season can also help you get better rates.

Should You Buy Chains Instead of Snow Tires?

Tire chains improve traction and are helpful for driving on mountains or ice roads. However, they are not designed for driving on the highway or bare pavement. They may also not support high speeds as you risk damaging them.

Chains are not substitutes for winter tires but an option for safer driving. Depending on the weather conditions and sometimes state rules, minimum traction controls are required. Check your state chain controls and winter tire regulations.

winter driving

Should You Get Your Winter Tires Siped?

Most winter tires are usually sipped. These are small, patterned slits installed in the lugs, creating extra edges for improvised grip. You can choose to have additional sipping on new and used winter tires.

We recommend sipping your winter tires if you regularly drive on slick roads. Custom sipping is also excellent for starting, stopping, and rolling traction.

Can You Buy Used Winter Tires?

Before settling for used winter tires, we recommend doing some checks. Verify the size by referring to your vehicle owner’s manual or on the side of your regular tires. You can also call a tire dealer to confirm the size.

Second, check the tread depth. Use a tire tread gauge to measure the tread or have a tire tech check. Check the depth at different places in the grooves to check for wear and tear.

Typically, new winter tires are 11/32nds an inch in depth. If the used tires have a depth of below 6/32nds, they will perform poorly in the snow.

Lastly, check for uneven wear. If your depth measurements show a disparity in tread depth, you might not be getting what you are paying for. Generally, a discrepancy of over 3/32nds should warn you that you are about to buy mismatched tires.

Choosing The Right Winter Tires

When driving in winter, using your all-season tires is a bad idea. Snowy or icy roads require improved traction to give you better stopping ability and improved handling. In addition, all-season tires are not designed for flexibility in colder weather compared to winter tires made from softer, more pliable rubber.

While some all-season tires are advertised as equally good to drive in winter, they may perform better in climates where winter is not extreme. For better, more confident driving, we recommend swapping out your all-season tires for winter tires during the cold season.

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